Reviewed by James Lavender
Four years after the release of his debut album, Home Again and with the subsequent touring and break which came with overnight fame, British soul-singer Michael Kiwanuka has returned with a more mature and experienced second album, Love & Hate.
This new album certainly has more pathos to it, with Kiwanuka writing about relationships, his father and his identity. These are all subjects on which we question ourselves at some point in our lives and he has managed to capture those emotions on this record.
The other factor constituting the album’s sound and tone is the nostalgic overtones which characterises Kiwanuka’s sound. Some of these songs could have been written and sung by Bill Withers or Otis Reading. The introduction to ‘Cold Little Heart’, with its heavy use of orchestral arrangements and slow-rhythm section could easily belong on a Pink Floyd album, whilst ‘Black Man in a White World’ is certainly closest to Withers in its style and lyrics.
Other standout tracks include ‘I’ll Never Love’, which is a funky, guitar-driven soul song. Two songs, ‘Love & Hate’ and ‘Cold Little Heart’ are lengthy songs which showcase the ambitious song craft of Kiwanuka and producers Paul Butler, Inflo and Danger Mouse (of Gnarls Barkley fame) with their intricate strings arrangements and complex guitar riffs (see also ‘The Final Frame’).
As soul albums go, it is an album of deep contemplation and retrospective, something to be enjoyed on a quiet evening, with the exceptions of ‘Black Man in a White World’ and ‘One More Night’, which you could easily move your feet to. It is confident step in the right direction for Kiwanuka, and it certainly shows that he has a niche to carve in UK soul music.
4 out of 5